EU Commission’s New Bookselling Rules

Publisher’s Weekly had a good article this week about the EU Commission announcing updated bookselling rules. The rules are likely to have significant pricing impact, particularly the change to VAT for ebooks and the refusal to allow Amazon contracts to include “most favored nation” clauses. The third rule that was issued ends the practice of ebook sales being determined by geographic location and making the EU one market in terms of ebook sales.

Check out the interesting changes and what people think will happen because of them.

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Print vs Ebook Sales

Last week, The Guardian published two articles with titles that purported to discuss the decline of ebooks and the resurgence of print in the UK. Additionally, CNN had a story online about the same situation playing out in the US.

The first article, How ebooks lost their shine, is actually more about the bounce back of print books and books as art objects (versus books as reading material). The article even states “The figures from the Publishing Association should be treated with some caution. They exclude self-published books, a sizable market for ebooks. And, according to Dan Franklin, a digital publishing specialist, more than 50% of genre sales are on ebook. Digital book sales overall are up 6%.”

The second article, Screen fatigue sees UK ebook sales plunge 17% as readers return to print, does not make the same note about the statistics but goes more in depth as to the fact that the decline might be attributable to the decline of dedicated ereaders in favor of tablets and cell phones which are harder to read on.

The CNN story gives similar data and ends with a depressing statistic for the US, “A quarter of the population hadn’t read a book of any kind, whether in print, electronic or audio form.”

Both Guardian articles have good points but I think reading all three of the articles together gives a better and fuller picture of the British and US book market and reader engagement.

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EU Court Allows Library Ebook Lending

Last month, the Court of Justice of the European Union put forward a ruling that libraries may lend ebooks just like physical books so long as authors are paid for their work. It appears that until now libraries in the EU did not have the right to lend ebooks the way libraries in America have for quite some time.

Publishers, of course, are quite unhappy with the decision because they will lose some money. However, the apocalyptic rhetoric coming from publishers is obviously overblown. If publishers have been able to make ebook lending work in America, they can certainly do so in the EU. Additionally, the idea that they find this decision shocking is ludicrous. Back in June, the advocate general for the court published an opinion on this case so publishers had five months to prepare for the court’s ruling.

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Best Books of 2016 Lists

The Washington Post has published its lists of the best books from 2016. They created one list of the top 10 books along with separate lists for fiction, nonfiction, audiobooks, science fiction and fantasy, mystery and thrillers, poetry, romance, memoirs, childrens and YA, and graphic novels.

I have actually not read any of the books on any of these lists but I do have a couple of them on my TBR. It also seems a little early to be making these lists considering that quite a few books will be published between when the list came out and the end of 2016 but I think this is an attempt to help people with holiday shopping for book lovers.

Have you read any of the books on these lists? What ‘best of’ lists do you follow?

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New Copyright Provisions Possible

Copyright infringement cases, like all court cases, can be very expensive and time consuming. Because so many authors, particularly self-published authors, make very little money on their work, a “small copyright claims” bill is being supported by the Authors Guild.

The legislation, H.R. 5757, introduced in the House of Representatives “establishes in the U.S. Copyright Office a small claims board to serve as an alternative forum for parties to voluntarily seek to resolve certain copyright claims”  and would consist of two attorneys and three claims officers. The bill is now with the Committee on the Judiciary where it will either be the subject of hearings and markup or it will “time out” at the end of the Congressional session.

The Authors Guild stated, “The costs of obtaining counsel and maintaining a copyright cause of action in federal court effectively preclude most individual copyright owners whose works are clearly infringed from being able to vindicate their rights and deter continuing violations. Moreover, sometimes authors want to put an end to infringements that are causing a relatively small amount of economic damage. In such cases, the prospect of a small recovery dissuades some copyright holders from filing a suit that costs more to file than the potential recovery.”

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Read A Romance Month 2016

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August is a Read a Romance Month so I thought I’d provide a few content links for readers looking for articles, essays, book recommendations, and interviews on romance.

Check out the feature on Alaskan author Jennifer Bernard in the Alaska Dispatch News. The article not only talks about Bernard and her books but also touches on the enduring disregard for romance. But Bernard has a great quote that readers and writers alike can agree with:

“I grew up in an academic family that disdained romance,” she said. “In order to even attempt to write my first book, I had to grapple with that ‘snobbish’ attitude. I had to figure out why I wanted to write, and who I was writing for.”

She soon realized that she had little interest in impressing the literary community.

“I wanted to write for people,” she said. “People who are looking for a laugh, or a happy sigh or the delicious satisfaction of a happy ending.”

Bustle also has a number of pieces on romance that are worth reading, including a recommended romance list for readers of classic literature. If you can only read one article in Bustle’s set, it should be “Bustle’s Romance Novel Month Celebrates A Genre Dominated By Strong, Smart Women”.

And, of course, the Read a Romance Month site has daily posts by romance writers from across the genre so look for your favorite author and maybe discover someone new to read.

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Picking Books: Editors or Data Mining?

NPR recently published a blog post on how to judge which book will sell well – editor judgment or data from ebooks. It’s an interesting 21st century problem along with the fact that traditional publishers lose money on 80% of the books they publish according to the article.

There are, of course, a lot of problems with strictly using data to determine whether a book is worth publishing – which I should note no one in the article says is a good idea. It ignores any segment of the reading population that doesn’t read ebooks – perhaps they would buy and enjoy a book that readers of ebooks didn’t like.

My other major objection is that a book that does well in terms of the data might lead publishers to publish a number of books that an algorithm says are similar. This will mean a spate of books that are all the same which history tells us readers do NOT want. Everyone should remember the Twilight publishing phenomenon where suddenly there were eight million YA paranormal romance novels and none of them were the “next Twilight” because readers had already moved on.

There is likely a place for data mining in the publishing realm but I suspect that it is a small piece of a very large puzzle of what readers want and when so that another 500 years from now it will still remain as much a mystery as it is today.

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Harlequin E-book Royalty Settlement

Discussions of fair royalty rates for e-books abound in book world, with different ideas of what is fair coming from authors and publishers. So I thought the Harlequin e-book royalty settlement that Publishers Weekly wrote about two weeks ago is pretty important for authors seeking a traditional publishing contract.

Back in 2012, a group of authors brought a suit against Harlequin for not paying enough in royalties on e-book sales. The problem stemmed from a clause in contracts that referred to the licensing of books and the amount that authors would receive under such licenses. Additionally, the issue involved which entity was, legally, the publisher under the terms of the contract. Without getting into all the nitty gritty on the suit, the dispute was whether authors were to receive 50% of the income which was calculated as 6-8% under one entity as publisher (which is how they were paid) or, if as the authors alleged, they should have received 50% of income calculated as 50% under a different entity as publisher.

The original suit was dismissed in 2013 but upon appeal several of the claims were reinstated in 2014 leading to mediation. An agreement was reached in early 2016 and the final settlement was approved last month and will pay the authors in the suit around $3 million.

The clause in the contract has long since been changed, of course, but it is still important to recognize that in all contracts there are clauses that can be interpreted different ways. It is up to authors to be sure that their interpretation of a clause in their contract is the same as the publisher’s interpretation.

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2015 Book Sales Stats

Publisher’s Weekly recently published this article on book sales that comes from Nielsen data. It appears that self-published and indie press e-books are taking more market share in the book world while traditionally published e-books are losing sales. The article states “the Big Five’s share of e-book sales last year … went from 38% in 2014 to 34% in 2015 (in 2012, the Big Five accounted for 46% of unit e-book sales). Self-publishers’ share of e-book sales rose to 12% last year from 8% in 2014 and from 5% in 2012. Small publishers’ e-book share, meanwhile, rose to 30% in 2015 from 26% in 2014 and 14% in 2012.”

The loss of traditionally published e-book sales may be offset by the rise in print sales, however, and more than half of certain genre book sales are still sold as e-books. According to the article, “the [e-book] format fell to a 24% share of total books sold in 2015, down from 27% in 2014. E-books nevertheless had large market shares in certain categories, with Nielsen reporting that 60% of romance unit sales were for e-books; the format also accounted for 51% of unit sales of mysteries and thrillers.”

While it has interesting information, the graphic and the first part of the article are a little misleading – as most statistics are when reported by media outlets these days. If you only read the headline and look at the chart, it appears that it covers the entire book market but it is referring only to traditionally published print and e-books. It is not until much later in the article that self-published and indie published books are discussed.

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What is a romance?

What is a romance novel? On it’s face this seems like a fairly silly question and yet there seems to be some contention. Historically, a romance novel meant that the book ended in a “happy ever after” or at least a “happy for now” for the main couple featured in the book. There doesn’t need to be a wedding or even an engagement but when the book ends, the couple needs to be together and happy. Non-romance readers – and by this I mean readers who may read a romance because it sounds good but aren’t seeking it out specifically because it is a romance – aren’t nearly as wedded to this required ending as romance readers are. This is fine, of course. This is not where the problem has apparently arisen.

The problem, as addressed in this article (it contains some book spoilers), is that some books are being billed as romance novels but do not have the required ending. Yes, required. If I’m reading a fantasy series that contains a romance element and the end of the series doesn’t have a romance ending, I’ll be disappointed (cough, Charlaine Harris, cough) but I can’t feel betrayed because it wasn’t billed as romance. However, if I am reading a romance novel or series and the couple dies or divorces or whatever at the end, then I will absolutely feel betrayed – and that pretty much guarantees I won’t read that author ever again. Maybe they don’t care that they will lose me as a reader – although they should, of course, because that’s money they won’t get going forward and I would bet that I’m not in the minority when of romance readers with this reaction. That kind of betrayal of your readership – and it is a betrayal to market a book as romance and pull the rug out from under your readers by not having a romance ending – is bad for business.

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